Hanover Police Announce Changes to Underage Drinking Policy

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Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis

The Hanover Police Department has significantly altered its policy regarding underage students hospitalized for intoxication, according to statements offered by police chief Charlie Dennis in an interview with Dartblog editor Joseph Asch ’79. Mr. Dennis confirmed reports that, as of last October, the police have officially discontinued their practice of arresting underage students being treated for intoxication at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. He also announced his decision to end Hanover’s diversion program as of January 1.

Formerly, all underage students transported to the hospital to be treated for intoxication were accompanied by a Hanover Police officer and placed under arrest upon their release. After being formally charged with underage drinking, students were also compelled to participate in a diversion program operated by the town, for which they were required to pay $400 and attend a series of informational sessions about the risks of alcohol consumption. Under the new policy, only students found to have engaged in aggressive behavior while drunk will be charged by the police, and will afterward be directed to the Valley Court diversion program, which charges only $175 for its services.

As Mr. Asch indicated in his blog post, this shift in policy brings the Hanover Police in line with the police departments of other Ivy League towns, which regularly record many fewer alcohol-related arrests. Studies on underage drinking demonstrate the negative effect that harsh policing has on students’ willingness to seek medical help for their peers, as in the investigation published by the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2006. Freed of the fear that hospitalization could lead to a criminal record and steep fine for their friends, it is likely that students will make more common use of the Good Samaritan policy operated by Dartmouth’s Safety and Security department, meaning more students at risk will receive the medical attention they need.